First Sunday of Lent, 2023
We who have been “around” for a while know that on the first Sunday of Lent we get the two “big” temptation stories: the Garden of Eden and Jesus tested in the desert. Sometimes we skim over these familiar readings and decide we know what is going to happen anyway.
But how would it go if that was how we approached our ministry? How would it be if we took the attitude of “one more struggling person” or “just a homeless person” or “he/she is such and such”? We would never do that, right? We always want to hear that individual’s story and assist with their unique needs.
Our mission, Catholic Social Teaching, and the Gospels inspire us to loving service. But what impact have three years of COVID had on ourselves and our staffs?
Today’s Psalm 51 echoes truth about what I need after being stretched, and watching my team be stretched and stretched and stretched, until we sometimes respond and serve and engage with one another in ways that they and we would not choose. “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”
This day reminds us of all the ways that we are and have been tempted, (read — struggled, not been our best selves, responded in a way we did/do not like) and offers us a “restart” at the beginning of this blessed season of Lent.
What do I hear in that temptation story from Genesis? That “(t)he Lord God formed man (and woman) out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life…” We are created in the image of God and despite behaviors, choices, sins and temptations, we are loved — deeply loved — to be lovers in the world.
Post-COVID will probably have a number of “restarts,” too. One other restart for Lent is to remember our place as a beloved child of God. This extraordinary opportunity to reflect and grow and change in the knowledge of that unique love will shine a light on those dear ones who come to our doors. We will always have temptations, but gazing on Jesus will remind us that through it all we are invited to bask in the love of our God. Blessed Lent!
Betsy Van Deusen is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Carondelet serving as CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, NY.